Jessica Davis – Senior Account Manager at Spreckley
Whether you’re in consumer or B2B PR, client events are a large element of PR campaigns – we always have something in the pipeline to plan for or to amplify. There is always a launch party, a press / blogger event, a trade exhibition or even just a US CEO coming over the pond for some meetings. Whatever the event is, the role of PR is essential and our usual remit always seems to morph slightly, meaning we become the ‘go-to’ for ensuring the general smooth running of the event.
Here are some tips for ensuring a successful client event:
Know your objectives
Before you even begin planning the event, you must firstly establish what your objectives for the event are. This will vary greatly depending on the type of event but defining objectives will ultimately define what tactics to employ. For example, if a key objective is to get potential customers along to an event, then the purpose of PR may be to raise awareness and promote the event within key media, prior to it happening. However, if a key objective were to raise awareness of a new product launch, then inviting media along to the event for one-to-one briefings with a spokesperson would be an appropriate route to take.
Preparation is absolutely essential when it comes to events – it doesn’t matter how good you are at blagging at an event (there are a lot of people with this skill in the industry!), you will come unstuck if you fail to prepare.
Preparation covers a whole host of details including sending directions and contact details to journalists, planning travel time, arranging meetings rooms, ensuring food and beverages are covered, preparing music to be played – the list goes on and on! Starting the planning stage as early as possible will help with ensuring nothing gets missed and creating detailed timelines of when everything needs to be organised by will guarantee you don’t fall behind schedule.
But you not only need to prepare yourself, you also need to prepare your client. There’s no point spending hours in advance of an event securing countless media briefings for your client, if your client then turns up to the event unprepared and fluffs all of the interviews. Make sure you have time to sit down with the spokespeople to brief them on key messages, what angles the journalists will be looking for and to provide background on the publications they will be meeting with. This will ensure that not only do the journalists get what they want out of the meetings, but the client will come away feeling as though you’ve done a good job and added value too.
It goes without saying that you can never quite prepare fully for the unexpected, but it is essential. However, you can make sure that you’re armed with as much information as possible and have team members on standby back at the office ready to help out if needed. Ensuring you have a phone number for a local taxi firm could be the difference between a client happily enjoying their event and a client pulling their hair out because they can’t get a VIP to where they need to be.
The media relations element of an event campaign is the key focus for the PR team. You must first set your clients’ expectations with this. If they’ve asked for 20 journalists to attend an event about the small update to a relatively unknown piece of business software, advise them that this is unrealistic! Based on the journalist relationships you have, and the knowledge of what your key media is interested in, provide a realistic suggestion of how many journalists are likely to attend. From here, you should tailor your pitching to these journalists to make sure you target them with information that is going to grab their attention. What is it that is going to make a particular journalist attend your event? If your event doesn’t have this killer element, again, advise your client and try to make this happen.
You also need to give the journalists plenty of advance notice that the event is coming up – at least two months ideally. Journalists are very busy and every PR is vying for their time so their diaries get booked up very quickly.
Your event is done and dusted, but don’t breathe that sign of relief just yet, because the work never ends when the event closes its doors. Ensure you follow up with all parties to make sure everyone got what they wanted out of it. Did the journalists get their stories? If not, find out what they need and make sure you supply this. Did the client feel as though all of the interviews went well? If they accidently dropped a clanger with one of the journalists, make sure you resolve this. Who didn’t attend? Follow up to find out why and ensure they still get the story.
Client events are a tricky task to master and will always involve a lot of juggling – these tips don’t cover every element (we could do a whole whitepaper on that!) but hopefully they will help you to ensure your next client event is a huge success.